Boss fined over accident at work death

Earlier this month the Chris Pridmore was fined £7,500 for the death of one of his employees.

On 6th November 2006, Simon Murphy, an apprentice joiner, was killed as he tried to move sheet boards of MDF. Seventeen-year-old Murphy, of Hawthorne Close, Stanton Hill, was working at the “Chris Pridmore Joinery Ltd” workshop on the Maun Valley Trading Estate in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. He was trying to remove boards of MDF, which were stacked on top of a bench and held in place with a bracket. He had successfully removed one but the remaining 9 boards, each 8ft by 4ft and collectively weighing a quarter of a ton, toppled over and struck him on the head. The managing director, Chris Pridmore, 32, tried to revive his apprentice at the scene while they waited for an ambulance. Murphy was rushed to King’s Mill Hospital where he later died from serious head injuries .

There were no witnesses to the accident, but it is believed that the boards fell because the bracket holding them was not strong enough. The bracket had been made a week earlier to hold the boards for safety reasons. However, a rough sketch on the back of an A4 pad on how the bracket should be designed was given to a welder by Pridmore who approved it. According to Ian Bridge, a representative of Health and Safety Executive said the design had been “drawn up on the back of a cigarette packet”.

Health and Safety Executive principal inspector Maureen Kingman said “Mr Pridmore neglected to provide safe arrangements for the storage of sheets of MDF boards. The bracket, which had been produced to Mr Pridmore’s design, posed inherent risks and its use as part of the storage system was ill-conceived.” She added that “the bracket failed after only a week in use. It is not known if the boards simply fell of their own accord or if Mr Murphy was attempting to push them towards the wall and this resulted in them toppling over”

Chris Pridmore, of Scholars Way, Mansfield, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4 (1) of the Provision of the Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 between the 30th October 2006 and 6th November 2006 and to breaching section 37 (1) of the health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. He also pleaded guilty to a separate offence of assault causing actual bodily harm to an off-duty police officer in Mansfield.

The Provision of the Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998, 4 (1) states that “every employer shall ensure that work equipment is so constructed or adapted as to be suitable for the purpose for which it is used or provided”. Section 37 (1) states that “where an offence under any of the relevant statutory provisions committed by a body corporate is proved to have been committed with the consent or connivance of, or to have been attributable to any neglect on the part of any director, manager, secretary or other similar officer of the body corporate or a person who was purporting to act in any such capacity, he as well as the body corporate shall be guilty of that offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.”

On 1st March 2009 Nottingham Crown Court gave Pridmore a sentence of 26 weeks, which is to be suspended for a year, 200 hours community service for the assault and £500 in compensation for the off-duty police officer. For his breach of health and safety he was fined £7,500 and is liable to £2,500 in costs. Other than the fines no further action was taken against the company. In mitigation Pridmore accepted responsibility for the accident but said the bracket had been installed in order to improve safety.

The Judge said that “of course it was, as I accept, an irony of this case that you were attempting to actually make matters better by what you did. But it is apparent that what you did was in fact create a significant danger in the event that this restraining bar broke. The matter wasn’t properly thought through. It was an accident in many ways waiting to happen.”

Since the incident the firm “Chris Pridmore Joinery Ltd”, which employed seven people, has gone into administration after becoming a victim of a customer’s fraudulent trading. Pridmore continues to trade but under the company name of “Pridmore Joinery Products” which now only employs 2 people and no longer stores large quantities of chipboard. Pridmore also arranged for a memorial bench to be made for Murphy following the fatal accident.

Ian Bridge described Mr Murphy as “talented young man, popular and friendly. His death is a tragic loss.” In a statement the Murphy family said they hoped a line could now be drawn under the incident and that “Simon is thought of and greatly missed every day by all his family. While the loss of Simon is not lessened we are all pleased that the court case has been concluded.” Kingman also described his death as “a tragic loss of a young life which could have been easily avoided.” The health and Safety Executive reminded bosses of their responsibility and duty to protect the health and safety of their workers.

In a similar case Simon John Ludgate of Oakfield Avenue, Warsop, Mansfield, Nottingham, has been fined £1,500. However, due to his financial status the judge did not order the costs to be paid.

Ludgate pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court for breaching Section 2 (1) and 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and for contravening regulation 3 (1) (b) (ii) of Reporting Injuries, Disease and Dangerous Occurrences Regulation 1995 for an incident that occurred at a construction site at 82 Sheepwalk Lane, Ravenshead, Mansfield. The accident happened while Ludgate was in the role of manager for the Real Estate (Midlands) Ltd. Ludgate also pleaded guilty to Section 3 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for an incident that occurred at a construction site at Trowell Rd, Wollaton, Nottingham.

Section 2(1) states that “it shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employers” while section 3(1) says that “it shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.” Regulation 3(1)(b)(ii) states that “if any person at work suffers a major injury as a result of an accident arising out of or in connection with work.”

Ronald Leslie Cordon, 63, from Quarndon, Derby fell from an unprotected wall on 6th November 2006 while he was doing bricklaying work on a housing construction site. He fell onto the floor of the house and struck his head off steelwork, knocking himself unconscious. Cordon suffered cuts to his head, severe bruising and swelling, a fractured left thumb resulting in permanent loss of movement, nerve damage to his right temple and now suffers short-term memory loss. Ludgate failed to report the incident which happened at the construction site at 82 Sheepwalk Lane, Mansfield.

The second incident occurred at a construction site at 52 Trowel Rd, Nottingham, where Health and Safety Executives found two employees at risk from falling from the front edge of a loading bay as insufficient protection was in place. There was also a risk to members of the public from falling tiles due to lack of edge protection.

The Health and Safety Executive Inspector Angus Robbins, from Nottingham, said: “A series of errors resulted in a tragic incident causing permanent damage to a man’s health, but given the circumstances this could easily have resulted in a fatality. Throughout the work at the two construction sites there was a complete failure to plan the work, maintain necessary protection at height or acknowledge the consequences of falls.

“Falls from height remain the most common cause of fatal injuries. Latest figures show that 45 people died from a fall from height at work in 2006/2007, with 3,750 suffering from major injuries. More than half of all fatalities from falls occur in construction. Companies involved in building, refurbishment or maintenance should ensure that the work is planned properly and sensible measures taken so that workers are not exposed to risk.

“This case [Involving Ludgate and Cordon] illustrates that risks should be properly assessed and the results acted upon to ensure that decisions can be taken on appropriate equipment and working practices to be used so employees are safe.”

View All